Sumbul (Ferula sumbul)

Ferula sumbul, or sumbul as it is informally known, is one of the least understood medicinal herb supplements. It grows primarily in Eastern Europe, and is cultivated in Uzbekistan and northern India for its roots. The roots are dried and processed for use in digestive aids, and are used as a sleep aid for patients with insomnia or nervousness. Sumbul grows to eight feet tall with stem-leaves and fibrous cork bark, and gives off a characteristic musky smell.

While sumbul is not generally used as a food and thus has not been evaluated for its nutritional value, it contains a number of active ingredients that provide medical benefits to patients. The roots contain balsamic resins and volatile oil, as well as starch, gum and wax. The components of muskroot include oleic, palmitic, stearic and linoleic nonvolatile oils, in addition to dextrin, ash and sucrose. Acetic acid, betaine and fiber are also among the components of ferula sumbul.
Medicinally, sumbul is used primarily to treat nervous disorders including menstrual upsets, insomnia and nervousness. Originally imported into Russia as a musk substitute, it was incorporated into British pharmacological practice in 1867 as an aid to digestion and as a treatment for hysteria. One unusual use for sumbul was as a deterrent to malingering. The taste of the medicine is sufficiently unpleasant that many patients preferred to leave their sickbeds rather than submit to a second dose. In higher doses, sumbul has been demonstrated to have a narcotic-like effect on patients and may provide some relief for chronic pain and insomnia.

Sumbul and its close relative asafetida are the subjects of recent scientific studies to determine their effectiveness against various varieties of the flu, with some successes reported against the swine flu virus. Sumbul is also used for a wide variety of digestive ailments from flatulence to dyspepsia, and is sometimes used as a topical application directly on the stomach in order to reduce pain from cramping and improve digestive health. The herb, due to its aromatic qualities, is used in some cultures as the primary ingredient in a folk remedy for asthma. It has been used to good effect in cases of pneumonia to help clear the lungs and provide improved respiration for patients.